Archive for June, 2008


Right, so after all that I never explained what a ‘secondment’ is. It basically means that I’m on loan for a year to our West Africa Regional office to support the Youth Empowerment through Arts and Media project. It’s kind of like a sabbatical. After the year, I’ll come back to my existing position (working with the Youth Engagement and Action program at Plan in the US).

BTW — I’m not actually MOVING to Africa (though the emails about how much you’ll all miss me are very sweet, hehe)– I’m working from the US, mostly from home, but traveling a lot to support the different countries. Coming up this summer: 3 weeks in Senegal in June for project planning with the teams from the participating countries, 1 day in Amsterdam in June to work with our office there on project ideas and potential funding, 3 weeks in Rwanda in July and 3 in Mali in September to support arts and media training. Possibly Kenya in December for a week-long de-brief/planning workshop with the teams including 3 days of discussion on social media and the use of mobile phone technology in the project.

And I know, I know. The last post was way too long. I promise the next ones will be short and sweet.

With photos! Here’s one of Clare. She’s busy cleaning her room this week so we can paint it before we leave. I’ve been promising for about a year. We’ll get some advice on that from Alex (my youngest brother, pro-painter turned tech guru) who’s coming to visit this weekend.

And videos! Once I figure out how to get them to load without errors. Is it me or is it blogspot? Only time will tell. I tried 3 times now to post one of Daniel playing capoeira in 3 different formats but it didn’t work. I used this really cool Flip camera that I’m testing out for the project. It’s the size of a Snickers bar, totally simple to use, and costs only $130.

Read Full Post »

Wait… what?

June 1. 🙂

The official start of my secondment. And no one knows what a secondment is, and I haven’t figured out how to explain in a nutshell what I’m going to be doing. But 2 wise people (thank you DK and Lisa) have convinced me I should blog about it. Maybe someone will be interested, and if not, well, at least I have more space than a nutshell to try to explain.

The equipment for Senegal’s portion of the project is in my dining room. Amazing how small everything is. Mini cameras, mini tripods. Simple. Tiny instruction booklets with 6 pages instead of 30 like they used to be. I’m liking new media technology and today’s short attention span.

e-tickets for Clare and me are folded up and paperclipped to the inside of my trusty planner. Printed 2 pages per sheet and double sided so even they seem small and compact. Fitting.

My arm muscles are still aching from Thursday, reminding me that we’re leaving soon. Tetanus. Yellow Fever. Typhoid. Joke was on me – mine were outdated so the vaccine list expanded to include me as well as Clare.

We leave June 14, but work on this started a way long time ago. Finally it’s taking off.

I’m on secondment starting today. Wait, what’s a secondment? Basically I’m loaned out to Plan’s West and East Africa offices to help a new project get going building on work that’s been happening for the last few years. Wait, what’s Plan? Oh, well it’s a global development organization working in some 66 countries to support child centered community development.

You’ve never heard of it you say?! No worries, pretty much no one has. It’s been around since 1937 but in the US it’s a very well kept secret — unfortunately. It’s actually more known as a sponsorship organization, but the work on the ground in communities is what hooked me since I started working there in ’98 when I lived in El Salvador (and that could be a blog all of its own…).

The project: Youth Empowerment through Arts and Media (or “YETAM” which sounds like some kind of hybrid creature to me, a cross between a yak and some kind of herd animal from the Lion King). YETAM is funded by Nokia. It’s being implemented by Plan’s Africa offices in Senegal, Rwanda and Mali together with local partners and communities and youth. Five more African countries will participate in the next 2 years if the funding is approved. The first virtual visit was to Uganda (and it was quite a learning experience — the videos are difficult to load which really distracts from the experience, the training was too short, the media too heavy, the cameras too big, the process not well connected with community development processes…), the next 3 were to Togo, Dominican Republic and El Salvador, done though Plan USA and we kept learning. Now with this project we’re looking at doing more of them and improving on the idea from start to finish.

The challenge: Creating multimedia virtual community profiles in 3 countries in Africa. Making sure the process of media creation is valuable for the participating youth and communities — as in how does making media build critical skills and awareness? How does it involve and benefit local people and communities? How can it be a sustainable process? And then using that media in the right ways to engage people in other parts of the world who may not really care about what’s happening in those countries. Or who have a skewed view of the continent. How to support a direct conversation between youth in different parts of Africa. And how to bring that conversation also to youth in other parts of the world. And how to do it in places where media is not readily accessible yet is impacting in a multitude of ways. What does social media mean for Africa anyway? I hope we’ll find out and I think something interesting is going to happen in the process.

It’s going to be a journey on so many different levels.

Personal. The people and places you meet when traveling and working on innovative projects impact on you in ways you don’t comprehend for years to come.

Professional. It’s finally a chance to focus on an area I’ve been doing on the side for a long time. A way to pull together a bunch of stuff that’s been floating around. A way to learn and grow in an area I’m totally energized and fascinated by.

Familial. The never-ending dilemma of how to raise 2 children (11 and 16) as a single parent who travels constantly. At least Clare gets to go with me on the Senegal trip (on my dollar of course – which is why Daniel is staying home this time).

Organizational. Plan is going to have to find a way through new media and technology for people to talk directly to each other instead of us being an intermediary. That poses lots of challenges and means things have to change within Plan too. That will be interesting to watch and participate in. How does an organization move into new ways of doing things without alienating those who have been involved for years in the old way? How do we make things work for everyone?

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts